Specializing in Spine, Sports & Physical Medicine

Spinal Stenosis: How Do I Know if I Have it?

Do you have pain in your legs or butt when you walk or stand? Does sitting down or leaning over a shopping cart reduce your symptoms? If you can answer yes to these questions then you might have a condition known as spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the of the spinal canal where the nerves pass through. This narrowing can cause a “pinching of the nerves” and as a result when you walk or stand there can be a sensation of pain, fatigue, numbness, pins and needles or all of the above. So why does standing and walking bring this on? When humans are upright the lower part of the spine, also called the lumbar spine gently curves inward. This arching of the lower back allows us to balance the weight from our head to the lower back on the pelvis. This curving of the spine results in a narrowing of the nerve channels. In a normal healthy spine this narrowing is not a problem, however, in someone with an already narrowed spinal canal the problem only gets more significant and pain develops. When you sit down or lean forward the spinal canal opens up and the pressure is removed. One of the tale tell signs of spinal stenosis is something known as the “shopping cart sign.” The leaning over the cart allows the spine to open up and therefore it is easier and less uncomfortable to walk. Another possibility for your doctor to consider is blood vessel problem in your legs.

There are a number of possible treatments for spinal stenosis. But first thing is getting properly diagnosed. I cannot stress the importance of having the correct diagnosis before starting a treatment program. Treatment options include physical therapy, medications for nerve pain such as Gabapentin and Lyrica, epidural steroid injections and spinal surgery.

 

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